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these past couple weeks have been tough. among other things that happened (and some really good things that happened, too!!) i got an email from someone saying they saw a copy of one of my pins for sale.

and i clicked the link, and yes, it was an exact copy of my pin.

someone very strategically traced or copied every detail of my artwork, and made their own counterfeit pins of a drawing i did of my cat peechee.

  • it was on shopify.

  • it was on pinterest.

  • it was on tumblr.

  • it was on instagram.

  • it was on Facebook.

  • it was on twitter.

  • it was personal.

the thief was very strategic about protecting their anonymity. (but I know who they are now and where they live and i even have their phone number if anyone wants to talk to them)

they targeted me and knew what they were doing every step of the way, even after they had been publicly confronted by other artists.

they targeted several artists and they thrived on (and continue to thrive on) knowingly stealing the work of independent artists like me.

- - -

and as i researched where else this person's counterfeits appear, i found tons -- TONS -- of my stuff copied and for sale on Alibaba.

i mentioned this to a lawyer i know who markets as an intellectual property attorney. he didn't really react. it was clear he had no professional interest in what was happening to me.

after all these years, i guess i still find it surprising that i have to be my own advocate 99.999999999% of the time, even if i'm willing to pay someone to help me in a situation that will exclusively result in a loss of a money for me!
i've been helped tremendously by lawyers in the past in protecting my artwork -- I love my lawyers -- but I also think that they tend to blow me off unless a corporate name is involved.

*8/10/16: i want to edit this to say that i recently found a lawyer who was incredibly awesome and responsive re: all of these issues and seemed as concerned as I am. if you need a referral, please feel free to reach out to me.

- - -

so if you happened upon this post, if you know me, or if you're just devastated because your artwork or your etsy photos or your products were copied on Alibaba (or anywhere else), here's what you can do.

^ This link details the process of writing and sending in DMCA takedown notices, which is what you'll need to do for sites like Shopify, Instagram, and Twitter. It's worth doing because:

  1. it helps keeps the originality and integrity of your work intact

  2. the infringer may learn from their bad behavior

  3. if it's a repeat infringer, they may lose access to the services they use to profit on stolen goods

  4. it prevents your work from being exponentially distributed from the initial theft

  5. it establishes that you care about your rights, and it's not just about money, if a bigger infringement happens down the line and you need to prove your history of taking infringements seriously in court.

seriously, i had to do that (prove my value and history in court, to show that i'm not a frivolous complainer) and it was the single most stressful experience of my life. do your work now. lay the ground.

- - -

Alibaba is a different monster.

Alibaba doesn't accept DMCA Takedown notices.

If you file a complaint about an individual listing by clicking the "Report issue" button, it will not be responded to.
If you contact customer service, even though GOOD LORD YOU ARE *NOT* THEIR CUSTOMER, it will not be responded to.
If you contact the seller, it's possible they'll take down the image, but it's also possible they won't.
And why would you give someone who knowingly stole from you the benefit of the doubt like that?
Like, they're using your actual hard work and original photos to sell something?
This is not their oversight. This is theft.

Here's what I'd do if I were you, which I did, because I'm me and I went through this and it was hell because there's no clear guide on how to file a copyright complaint with Alibaba:

Do not contact the seller directly. They stole from you.

Register for an account on legal.alibaba.com (click English for English)

Go to "IPR Management" and Submit IPR

IPR Registration Number: Your shop name or artwork collection
IPR Name / Description: Description of your shop or artwork or copyright
IPR Owner: Your legal name
IPR Type: Most likely copyright (for photos?)
IPR Registration Region: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or OVERSEAS
IPR Validity period: when your shop opened to a long time into the future.

Add Documents:

  • a DMCA takedown notice

  • a contact sheet of every photo you aim to protect - ie. your catalog (I printed my entire etsy shop to PDF, scaled up 16 pages per sheet, and submitted literally every listing from my shop as a JPG in this contact sheet form. It took time and effort.)

  • a screen shot of your shop

  • a screen shot of a sample listing

  • Upload this exact signed copyright claimant form: http://img.alibaba.com/images/cms/upload/Onlinesecurity_used/2012/copyright_claim_statement.pdf

Identity verification:

  • Upload your driver's license

  • Upload your business permit or reseller permit

this is very invasive but required.

--- then ---

  • Wait 1-2 weeks to hear back about whether your account was approved

  • If they need additional info, fix your application, and send it back in.

--- then ---

  • Once approved, you can submit the listings by URL that are stealing from you in bulk, and Alibaba will auto-notify all of the sellers of the complaint with a record of their infringement.

It's a pain in the butt to do all this, but if shops are caught infringing repeatedly, their shops suffer severe but appropriate consequences.

It's worth doing, for all of us who make original work.

I'm tired of reading about people who just shrug their shoulders and say "oh well, what can I do?" when there's actually a lot you can do and it's a complete abuse of our shared rights if you just overlook it and turn a blind eye with some bs about how your customers care.

Yes, it sucks. But laziness on this issue is dangerous to you and to me.

I believe it's other artists' passive attitudes toward protecting their work that has made image theft and art theft so common.
Obviously the people stealing are the villains, but I think they're being opportunistic.
They know that people tend not to react when stolen from.
But it *is* empowering to stand up for yourself.

So I guess what I'm saying is:


something i've noticed

something i've noticed is you can know someone for a very long time and still not know them at all. you can love and trust someone for a very long time and then realize they've been harmful to you the whole time, and you were never suspicious of them because you're a hopeful person who wants people to be as good as you envision them, but maybe you need to be suspicious of everyone and what they want from you because lately it seems like almost everyone has an ulterior motive.

life, for me, has always been about little moments of beauty and tenderness. the earning and losing of money has been a biproduct of the ultimate quest to just live a lovely life. but it seems like, for a lot of other people, the money is the primary objective. not living a lovely life, but being greedy, egomaniacal, or at worst - and with frequency - cutting down those around you to further yourself, all for the intangible construct of money.

i've seen old friends of mine from college who danced at my wedding do this. i've seen people i trusted with sharing my deep and unsharable sadnesses become the very reasons for those sadnesses; i've seen them befriend and pull closer to them the people or things that caused those sadnesses, telling me in a way that my friendship does not have the same value to them as this specific opportunity for them to further their career or self-esteem.

but what can you do. people are naturally self-serving, i guess, and their capacity for casual cruelty and chronic disregard for decency is what i've noticed.

a couple years ago, my friend martin pointed out to me that people only get in touch when they want something from you, and that seems to be so true, and i long for when i was oblivious to this.

addendum to add: i'm grateful for the safe haven of my marriage and my family and a few of my friends, people who love me and don't ask for anything but will get everything from me i have to give, because i love them for loving me.

we're lucky if we have one or two people who don't secretly delight in our miseries, secretly compete with our successes, secretly stay tuned for our failures, kick us when we're down.


need a place to go

the problem with journaling for me is that when it's 100% private and for my eyes only, like with my sketchbook, I'm -- as with literally everything else in my life -- way less likely to do it if it only benefits me. sharing in a journal that's public or social media or whatever seems so much more motivating because maybe I can help someone else who has felt that way. and of course, someone else who has felt that way can maybe help me get outside of my thinking on it.

the problem is audience, maybe. it's no longer really curated, so it's kind of whoever happens to have my email address can connect back to me in one form or the other. so nothing is private.

so how can we share something with some people but not everyone, and with people who respond the way we need them to even if we didn't know we needed them to, rather than people we've forced into the arrangement by tagging them or whatever or by continuing to update a blog in a ghost town such as this?

I guess for most of my life I've felt I had these semi private journal outlets and I'm not sure I do now.

I do have a therapist, so there's that, but sometimes it's difficult to convey or feel it can be a conversation re issues I sense she doesn't know how to respond to, like legal issues which are so, so stressful and a direct path to feeling like what is the point of anything. or seeing someone get everything they want when you know them to be a social climbing networking narcissistic parasite who happens to be in literally all of your social circles, thus for sure name dropping you, using you too, making it awkward as hell and impossible for fucking ever.

just an example.

I have some more personal ones I'd like to write about but again, it's that matter of audience and anyone being able to find their way back to this. sometimes I feel like sadness has nowhere to go but inward, because of our inter connectivity, there's no changing the channel, there is just the one channel.

maybe I spoke too soon.

I'm having one of those days where everything is a needle, needling. I tried to write about it. I started working on a vector drawing about it with new equipment I am trying to learn how to use. but the power just shut off. it's like the whole world is just telling me no, no, no today.
I've promised myself this year, like the others, to be better at some things.

* to read more than I did last year (I think I only read 27 books when my annual goal remains at 50)
* to exercise more and try to take better care of myself physically
* to be more organized, the thing I am much better at than I used to be but still have far to go
* to write in a journal more. this one, and the paper one, and the sketchbook one, and all the ones.

2015 was a good year in so many ways. sharing a schedule with my husband for the first time in 13 years allowed us to travel more and support each other more. I'm authoring my first book! I gained independence through my own online shop. I got incredible press for this online shop. my sister was married and, with gratitude, I got to be a big part of her celebration! I weathered a storm for the first half of the year and was rewarded with a garden for the second. I should be so lucky in 2016.

happy new calendar year.
Practical spoiler: there is no way to undo "erase all email".

This is going to sound insane and stupid and devastating and unimaginable, and it is all of those things.

I was watching the new Aziz Ansari show on Netflix and just playing with my phone. Not even looking at it, just swiping out of habit. I saw a button appear and tapped it without realizing what it was or what it said until it was too late. It said "Delete All Mail" or something like that. I immediately realized that's dialogue I had never seen before (it's a new option in iOS 9.1)

I ran to my computer fearing the worst. I watched over 100,000 emails disappear from my email server including contracts, client emails, files that had been archived on my email server, and personal correspondence. I thought maybe they were just moved to the trash. I realized one week of email was there up to the minute.

My phone was systematically permanently deleting anything in Trash that was older than a week. Because that's what it does.

It took less than a minute. I was on hold with Apple's support chat.

Emails from when my husband and I first started dating. Emails during the process of my first picture book. Photos people emailed me from my wedding. All gone.

I contacted Apple and they confirmed that the emails had been deleted and it was not possible to recover them, to interrupt this process, or worse: to prevent it from happening again.

An ordinary dialogue box stands between you, your phone, and the possibility of wiping your entire business and personal correspondence off the face of the earth.

Tonight I had a panic attack. The dizzy, floating above earth, heaving breaths kind of panic attack.
Apple support phone lines were closed.

Fuck all the inbox zero people who probably demanded this feature. No phone should have the ability to do this to your life.

why we are burning out in the arts

There's too much to keep up with. When it comes to actually writing in this journal, I just never seem to find the time. Or it's just so much easier to share on the fly (i.e. facebook/twitter). But there's value in the longform and value in putting the time into it.

I'm newly addicted to an app called List (http://li.st)
Check it out and add me if you're on there. It helps me embrace the longform *and* it's on the fly.

Anyway, I came here to share this really good article I read: http://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/career-advice/performing-arts/madeleine-dore/why-we-are-burning-out-in-the-arts-249582

I think the #1 cause of burnout for artists is a negative relationship (i.e. having someone else steal your work, or having a partner betray your trust. I've had paintings physically stolen off the walls of my art shows (12 times - in san francisco each and every time), I've had galleries not return my work, I've had my work copied by corporations and individuals alike, sometimes even friends. and I've had trusted licensors steal my ideas, underpay me, stop paying me, miscommunicate, stop communicating, or any number of things that all add up to feeling low. there's also the social media component, and the pressure to keep people "engaged" instead of actually doing your work. and the personal aspect of it, too. getting friended or followed, then unfriended or unfollowed.

eventually you sort of start to feel like your existence doesn't matter and your work doesn't matter and you'll never be respected or appreciated, and it will always be a struggle and it will never stop being a struggle, to make things and to actually give a shit about what happens to it while you try to pay your bills, and you try to share what you do with those who care, and you try to do more of it, and you try to just keep up and try not to let things hurt you too deeply.

i'd love to hear from an artist who's been working full-time as a freelancer for longer than me who doesn't feel this way, and i'd really love to learn how they do it. is it just a complete detachment from the work itself, like any other job? are you somehow treated so differently than me, respected in every business relationship and treated with some kind of reverence? are they just paid very handsomely?

if it's you, please comment or email me at susie (at) boygirlparty.com

dead serious.

here's a quote from the article i particularly liked:

I'd say a major pressure in the arts comes from living a life of constant financial insecurity. Artists work very hard, usually in multiple ways on several different projects, but this labour seldom gives you a regular income, so you're coping with stresses that don't have to do with your work, but are a result of it.

and here's a picture:

and here's a poll:
Poll #2025562 sometimes don't you feel so super tired?

sometimes don't you feel so super tired?

doing a lot of this lately.

doing a lot of this lately

it's as much work as a solo art show but there's so little i can share until it's published (in a couple years!)


ten years.

tomorrow marks ten years for my shop on Etsy. considering how much of every day i spend working on my shop/shipping/communicating through Etsy, this sort of feels like it's not an accomplishment at all. it feels like a day job of its own, so separate from what i wish my day looked like.

shouldn't i, at some point, be working less crazy hours?
waking up in the night with stress dreams less?
feel like i have earned some sense of accomplishment, accolade or feeling of partnership with etsy through my ten years of unending labor toward their reputation?

when i talk about etsy, i sound like my friends talk about corporate jobs that wronged them.

i heard an interview this morning with SVP of Etsy's Members and Community, and she said she's informed by her past experience as a therapist and feels sellers who are unhappy are just negatively reacting to change. this is so patronizing and dismissive, especially when sellers are often unhappy with things etsy has the power to change.
it makes me question why i have poured so much time into something for ten years that does not care whether or not i am happy with it.

the way i spend my day today on etsy does not look much different from ten years ago, except ten years ago i felt visible.
i've been talking a lot about Etsy lately. it's a website i depend on to put a roof over my head -- although over and over, they poke holes in it with the many changes they make to the site, and now, the unpredictable future that accompanies their stock offering. (which motivated me to relaunch my online store on my website)

you can hear me (and more importantly, an journalist from WSJ who has been writing about Etsy) talk about what these changes might mean on this podcast: Etsy: DIY to IPO

maybe you'll also hear a quiver in my voice because speaking about the Etsy experience comes with a sort of looming threat they've established over the years that they can close your business and shut you down, maybe even if they just don't like what you've said.

i really feel the majority of serious Etsy sellers live in a perpetual state of fear: fear of constant changes Etsy makes to the site that cause their sales to spike and plummet unpredictably and without recourse, fear of negative feedback, fear of being copied, fear of an uncertain future with a website who has all but hidden and locked down the branding and customer base of each of their shops… this list can go on. and i'm writing this post in the middle of the night because worry about Etsy literally has kept me up at night. because instead of listening and actively responding and making changes that serve rather than alienate their sellers, they could just shut me down.

artists like me on Etsy should feel utterly supported by and heard by this platform -- we drive Etsy and make it special (and, according to this podcast, account for 97% of their revenue) but there is such an imbalance here. years ago, Etsy straight up broke their search function so only an SEO guru - not a crafter - can be found. they removed the very idea of a homepage and turned it into a feed of their marketing team's picks. most recently, they've made some really damaging and scary changes to their etsy app, and even to their accounting reports.

and their marketing team's "picks" -- what they face out to their millions of members -- are NOT reflective of the Etsy / craft community i know, built by real artists, movers and shakers. Etsy's marketing team defines and highlights "popular shops" differently, too.

but here's the thing: Etsy has been - and sometimes still is - an awesome website with wonderful potential to support and sustain artists (real artists, not resellers of Alibaba stuff). they certainly have done this in the past. and I know amazing people (or at least one really amazing person) who works there who has helped me understand changes on Etsy during some of my darkest hours with Etsy.

but Etsy is making some decisions lately that really hurt and scare individuals like me who've knit their businesses together with a changing marketplace and no longer can trust what might lie ahead or what it means for their businesses.

thanks to Julie Sabatier for the interview and for asking all the right questions and for this thoughtful podcast. for more info about this episode & her podcast – Rendered Radio – go here.